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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Parents, 'Puters and Painkillers

"Hi hon! How are you? How are the kids? I can't print"...

Being a technologist these days is like being the family doctor in the olden days (ok, well, family doctors are still of value but mostly for prescription drugs for fun I think.)

You know what it's like - your second cousin once removed calls - you haven't seen her since that embarrassing Thanksgiving when they pulled you into singing "Muscrat Love" with them while your inebriated Aunt tried to play the piano ("I haven't played since I was a child" - no kidding?!). [That's another story.]. "Hey... are you still into computers?"
Uh... no. I'm now working at a humane beef ranch as an ozone protection analyst. Sorry.

In this case, my father was calling for help with printing.
Guiding him to view the print queue won't work - the print queue icon seems invisible to him and the Start button is out of the question ("The start button... you mean the power button? Ok. I clicked it, but my computer screen is blank now."). First things first. Do you see a light on in the front of the printer ("Yes, honey. My desk lamp is always on.")? It would be a long, slow and painful process (looking for the real family doctor for those fun meds now) to guide my father to eventually unplug and replug in the printer USB cable on his laptop ("no, Dad... the printer cable doesn't plug into the wall socket...get out from under the table before you hurt yourself.").

The printer sprung to life and began printing the 32 copies of the 70-page document he'd sent to it before calling me. Rather than try to guide him through the process of clearing the print queue I just told him that there wasn't anything he could do about it. "Just get out the recycling bin, Dad." (Making notes to give Dad reams of paper next birthday and go out to plant something green while acknowledging the guilt of prioritizing my sanity over the environment).

You must have a certain level of compassion and empathy to work in the field of technical support. I really don't know how people take calls from someone like my father every day and still maintain a life of sobriety and love towards mankind. I think the key must be...
Hang on... gotta cut this blog short... my Dad's calling... ("Honey... I've just downloaded Wireshark and I have a couple questions...") Gulp.

Family... can't live with 'em... can't DoS 'em (legally)